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Hooked while fishing? Here's what you should and shouldn't do

Dr. Peter Anagnostopoulos, medical director of emergency medicine at CHI St. Joseph’s Health in Park Rapids, said about 400-500 fish hook cases are seen each year in the hospital’s emergency room, mostly during the summer.

There is the finger injury received during a fish season. A sharp fishhook had pierced the fisher's forefinger. The foreign object is in a humans hand. The physical trauma is the result of a angling.
Lures with more than one hook or treble hooks can be likely culprits to injure anglers.
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PARK RAPIDS — It’s one thing to get hooked on fishing.

It’s another thing to get hooked while fishing.

Feel free to do the one; try not to do the other.

It can happen while casting or while handling a fish with a lure in it.

“It honestly happens more often than you’d think it would,” said Wade Massure, Park Rapids area fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.


Dr. Peter Anagnostopoulos, medical director of emergency medicine at CHI St. Joseph’s Health in Park Rapids, said about 400-500 fish hook cases are seen each year in the hospital’s emergency room, mostly during the summer.

“For the vast majority, it involves their non-dominant hand,” said Anagnostopoulos. “This occurs when they are taking the hook out of the fish’s mouth and the fish starts to struggle, resulting in the other treble hooks catching their skin and setting the hook.”

Hook removal is straightforward in most cases, he said. First, the affected area is injected with lidocaine to anesthetize the site, then the hook is retracted with a needle driver.

Fishing guide’s story

Jason Durham with Go Fish! Guide Service said most people who get hooked are using lures with two or three treble hooks on them.

“Now you’ve got up to nine hooking points on one lure,” he said. “There’s a lot more points that can penetrate the skin.”

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In his 30 years as a fishing guide, Durham said, “I’ve personally never been hooked past the barb, knock on wood. I’ve been poked. I’ve bled, but I haven’t had a hook buried in me.”

His clients, however, have shared stories about being hooked, some while a live fish was on their line. Durham advised being aware of where your bait is, both while casting and while grabbing a fish.

“Be mindful of the situation you’re in,” Massure agreed. “As you’re going to put your lure out there, make sure there is not someone directly beside you or in the path of that lure. Always check behind you, because a lot of people get caught in the backswing.”


The best thing to do is take a pause in your fishing trip, go into the hospital and let the professionals take care of it.
Jason Durham, fishing guide

Durham also suggested using pliers to remove the hook from a fish, rather than grabbing with your hand while the lure is inside it.

“Always make sure that you have a heavy-duty cutter in the boat, like a small bolt cutter, that you can at least free the lure from your body,” he said, meaning to separate the hook from the lure. Manually removing a hook can lead to permanent damage, he said, if it’s buried in muscle or tendon.

“The best thing to do is take a pause in your fishing trip, go into the hospital and let the professionals take care of it,” Durham stressed, noting he only removes hooks in extreme cases where medical help is far away.

DNR pointers

Massure urged seeking immediate medical help if the hook is caught anywhere near a sensitive body part, like the eye. “You don’t want to damage any nerves,” he said, “and heaven forbid you injure your eye.”

Nevertheless, he said, he has used two methods to remove a hook from a finger.

The first method, which he said is “not for the squeamish,” is to push the barb of the hook forward out of your finger, making a second hole. Then, use pliers or snips to cut the barb off before backing the hook out of your finger. “That way,” he said, “you won’t have that barb catch on anything.”

For his second method, Massure assumes the skin was torn as the hook went in, giving you “a little bit of wiggle room. With that,” he said, “you can kind of apply pressure off the eye end of the hook, where your line is attached to the hook. That will back the hook out and, basically, the barb is coming back through the area that it’s already entered.”

Cautionary tale

Anagnostopoulos said one unfortunate person “took the prize” for the worst fish hook injury when they were riding in the bow seat of a fishing boat with a tackle box open on their lap.


“The captain of the boat thought it would be funny to jolt the accelerator of the boat, causing the tackle box to dump into the person's lap,” he said. “A number of Rapalas, spoons, and lunkers fell out of the tackle box onto their lap, causing many of the hooks to go through their clothing and some piercing into the flesh.”

In all, six lures became embedded in their lap area, complicated by the tugs on their clothing with any movement.

“After about 25 grueling minutes, the final hook was removed and the person was freed from their torment,” said Anagnostopoulos. “The moral of the story is, don’t carry an open tackle box on your lap in a moving boat.”

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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